Visa blow to thousands of students in US: ‘We have taken loans in India’


Tens of thousands of Indian students face the daunting task of arranging large amounts of money to go back to India or run the risk of being deported, thanks to the Trump administration announcing new fall semester visa rules for international students.

Nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States, according to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) announcement Monday.

It said visas to students doing fully online courses for the fall semester will not be issued visas or allowed to enter the US.

Active students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status,” it said. “If not, they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.”

Eligible F students may take a maximum of one class or three credit hours online, according to the SEVP announcement.

Nonimmigrant F-1 students attending schools adopting a hybrid model —t a mix of online and in person classes — will be allowed to take more than one class or three credit hours online. These schools must certify to SEVP that the student is taking the minimum number of online classes required.

F-1 students in English language training programs or M-1 students pursing vocational degrees are not permitted to enroll in any online courses.

The new rules are a big blow to some 202,000 Indian students for whom the US is home, who had been eyeing higher education here and were either already in the country or planning to enroll for the fall semester.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, many international students have gone back to India.

Still, some 75,000 Indian students could be stranded in the US according to the North American Association of Indian Students, with some being made homeless and unable to afford food, reported the education-focussed portal June 17.

Adit Kumar, enrolled in the computer science master’s program at California State University, Fullerton, told indica News that he like other students had received an email from the university saying the classes would be online for the fall semester.

He hoped that would change.

Los Angeles-based Kumar, who joined the course in August 2019, said he being an international student he cannot do regular work. He got a part-time lab job on the campus “but it’s gone after the campus closed,” he said.

“As an international student our value is zero as long as we are not on Curricular Practical Training or Optional Practical Training,” he said. “We are waiting. What else can we do now? Seems like 2020 is the year of confusion.”

Asked about transferring to another university, he said since all 23 campus comes under CSU then it means all would take uniform decision so then a transfer would not be required.

But moving out of state to another university would be hard, he said. “We have covered one-year course here.”

The fee per unit is $2,500. For two units it is $4,800 and three units cost $7,700. Transfer to any private university would be much higher.

“We don’t want to go back and we don’t want to do online classes only,” Kumar said.

Is going back an option?

The ticket price is very high and not every student can afford. The Indian government should give some discount to students if we are forced to leave the US. We have taken loans in India and had a dream to get American education,” he said.

Adit said he did not enroll in an online summer class because onsite classes are more helpful and beneficial.

It’s hard to interact and even pay attention when you are over Zoom. For projects you need to have a lab, a team, interaction with them and your faculty,” Kumar said.

These, he believes, are not possible online.

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